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Politics & Government

State Sen. McBride begins renewed push for paid leave in Delaware

McBride paid leave roundtable
Rebecca Baer
Delaware Public Media
State Sen. Sarah McBride (center) leads roundtable on paid leave in Wilmington

Some Delaware lawmakers say if Congress won’t pass paid leave legislation, they are up to the task.

State Sen. Sarah McBride (D-Claymont) was joined by Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long and other legislative leaders for the first in a series of roundtables on the issue in Wilmington Thursday.

McBride is sponsoring a bill that would give most workers 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. It would cover circumstances like welcoming a new child, addressing serious health issues or caring for an ill relative.

One of the panelists, Dr. Margaret Chou, who leads the Delaware Section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said not having access to paid leave impacts patients’ health. She recalls a pregnant woman who couldn’t afford to miss a paycheck despite having a medical condition.

“She was in an impossible situation,” she said. “We started negotiating - ok, I should recommend that you be hospitalized, but since we can’t manage that, here’s what we can sort of do to mitigate your risk, but it was a horrible choice to have to make, but we see that all the time.”

McBride says she’s confident the measure will pass next year, despite not having the support of the state’s largest business groups like the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce. She said she’s working to address their concerns. Based on those discussions, she plans to file a substitute to the paid leave measure she introduced in May.

“But I also want to be clear that in this conversation there isn’t one stakeholder group that gets to have the only say in what this policy looks like,” she said, adding that she plans to take into account feedback from workers, health care providers and small business owners “who don’t necessarily agree with the concerns raised by certain business interests.”

Small business owners taking part in the roundtable said providing paid leave helps them retain good employees and increases productivity.

Sen. McBride plans to hold similar roundtable discussions in Kent and Sussex Counties.

Her legislation, Senate Bill 1, would provide 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave through a type of state insurance program. It would be funded by payroll taxes. Nine other states have similar programs. If approved, McBride said Delaware’s program would be the most generous paid leave program in the country.

A spending package being considered in Congress would provide four weeks of paid leave, but some have doubts it will be included in the final bill.